New biofouling system aims to help shipping save on fuel and costs

A joint university research has revealed a new monitoring system on biofouling of ships’ hull, a process that increases drag on ships and costs the global industry an estimated $7.5bn a year in wasted fuel.

Newcastle University (UK) and Newcastle University International Singapore (NUIS) has developed a real-time system to monitor and reduce biofouling, named the Macfouling system, which uses a combination of ultrasonic and vision technology.

“Our proposed research will enable shipowners and shippers to significantly reduce their dry dock costs by replacing their anti-fouling paint with this new technology. Fuel costs will also be reduced as ships are able to travel without the increased drag caused by biofouling,” said Chin Cheng Siong, a researcher at NUIS.

A computer graphical user interface will display the fouling conditions in real-time. The information obtained will be wirelessly transmitted to the shore to facilitate early detection of fouling and subsequent research and development purpose, the universities said.

“In Asia, the research on biofouling is starting to gain prominence amongst the shipping industry, which is moving towards a more sustainable approach,” Chin said.

He added that sustainable measures in shipping are being implemented to reduce both the environmental footprint and operating costs.

“Our research is in line with this sustainability trend and promises to alleviate the biofouling problem in real-time with the use of the ultrasonic technology and vision technology.

“It can also be implemented across a wide scale due to its modular nature and the ability to monitor from onshore stations will enable better timing of dry dock cycles,” Chin said.

Other implications of biofouling include the movement of invasive species around the world and increased emission of greenhouse gases.

Posted 10 September 2014

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